Designer bacteria may lead to better vaccines

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Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a menu of 61 new strains of genetically engineered bacteria that may improve the efficacy of vaccines for diseases such as flu, pertussis, cholera and HPV. The strains of E. coli, which were described in a paper published this month in the journal PNAS, are part of a new class of biological “adjuvants” that is poised to transform vaccine design. Adjuvants are substances added to vaccines to boost the human immune response.


“For 70 years the only adjuvants being used were aluminum salts,” said Stephen Trent, associate professor of biology in the College of Natural Sciences. “They worked, but we didn’t fully understand why, and there were limitations. Then four years ago the first biological adjuvant was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. I think what we’re doing is a step forward from that. It’s going to allow us to design vaccines in a much more intentional way.”

Adjuvants were discovered in the early years of commercial vaccine production, when it was noticed that batches of vaccine that were accidentally contaminated often seemed to be more effective than those that were pure.

“They’re called the ‘dirty little secret’ of immunology,” said Trent. “If the vials were dirty, they elicited a better immune response.”

What researchers eventually realized was that they could produce a one-two punch by intentionally adding their own dirt (adjuvant) to the mix. The main ingredient of the vaccine, which was a killed or inactivated version of the bacteria or virus that the vaccine was meant to protect against, did what it was supposed to do. It “taught” the body’s immune system to recognize it and produce antibodies in response to it.

Written By: e! Science News
continue to source article at esciencenews.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. I am curious about how the anti-vaccination crowd will react to this. Since many advocate intentionally contracting diseases like measles, they can hardly protest against the use of bacteria to boost the immune response. But on the other hand, rationality is not their strong suit, so there is a strong chance that they will stick to their immutable opposition to anything connected to vaccines, and find a way to rationalise it.

  2. I’ve always believed that a full comprehension of immunology would change medicine.
    Since genomic elucidation followed by experimental investigation ;I believe that there could be some startling results in the near future.

  3. In reply to #1 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

    I am curious about how the anti-vaccination crowd will react to this. Since many advocate intentionally contracting diseases like measles, they can hardly protest against the use of bacteria to boost the immune response. But on the other hand, rationality is not their strong suit, so there is a strong chance that they will stick to their immutable opposition to anything connected to vaccines, and find a way to rationalise it.

    I think they’re just Luddites. Nobody want aluminum, mercury, and other poisons in their shots, and they find mainstream validation in this reasonable objection. Once this is removed their true colors will show.

    Now I’m just waiting for bacteriaphages to come into style.

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